The Lenape Indians

Running head: THE LENAPE INDIANS The Lenape Indians Pennsylvania and Local History The Lenape Indians The Delaware River, named after Sir Thomas West, Lord de la Warr the governor of the Jamestown colony, flows from the Catskill Mountains in New York to the Delaware Bay along the borders of New Jersey and Delaware. The Delaware River meanders along and forms the boundary of present-day Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The first known inhabitants living along the banks of the Delaware River were the Eastern Woodland natives known as the Lenape Indians – sometimes called the Lenni Lenape or the Delaware Indians.
Lenape stands for common or ordinary people and they called their land along the Delaware River Lenapehoking meaning Land of the Lenape (Kraft, 2005). At one time, the area known as Lenapehoking covered the southeastern portion of New York (including Staten Island and the western portion of Long Island), the southwestern portion of Connecticut, Eastern Pennsylvania, all of New Jersey, and the northeastern portion of Delaware along the Delaware Bay (Kraft, 2005). Evidence of the Lenape Indian’s presence in this geographic region dates back 3,000 years.
The Lenapes first encountered the Europeans during the 16th Century. The discovered artifacts, the writings of the European settlers, and the stories passed down through the generations of Lenapes give us the story of the life and customs of the Lenape Indians as it was back during that time period. Two distinctly large groups of Lenape Indians, separated by geographic regions, made up what was known as Lenapehoking. The group of Lenape living north of what is today the Delaware Water Gap spoke a Munsee dialect and the group to the south spoke a Unami dialect (Lenape Lifeways, Inc, 2002).

These two groups of Lenape Indians were organized into many bands which the Europeans called tribes. These small groups lived along the streams and rivers at the edge of the thick forests. In the northern Munsee group, the bands included the Raritan, Hackensack, Tappan, and Minisink Indians. The Unami group to the south consisted of the bands known as the Siconese, Mantaes, Remkokes, and Sankhikan Indians (Kraft, 2005). Each band of Lenapes had three separate clans also known as phratry – the turtle clan, the wolf clan, and the turkey clan. All Lenapes belonged to one of these three clans (Kraft, 2005).
The extended families within each band were related through their mother. Clan membership was always passed down through the mother’s lineage. Each family group consisted of the mother and all her children and their children, the grandmother, and the mother’s brothers and sisters and their children. The Lenape married in their teens and were required to marry someone from a different clan. The new husband left his clan and moved in with his wife’s family. Their children and grandchildren always stayed with their mother’s clan (Grumet, 1989). The Lenape spent much of their time working out-of doors.
This accounted for their tanned skin coloring and their muscular physique. The males spent their days hunting, trapping, and fishing. The men did the heavy work such as clearing the forests for their homes and gardens, building their shelters, and making tools out of stone and animal bones which were necessary for them to hunt, sew, and garden. All pieces of the animals they hunted were used for some practical tool, pieces of clothing or blankets, or decoration. The woman kept busy caring for the children, cooking, gardening, sewing, scavenging for food, herbs and firewood in the forests, and preparing food for storage.
Their clothing was minimal in the warmer weather. When it got colder, both the males and females wore leggings, fur robes, and moccasins (Kraft, 2005) made from the hides of the animals they hunted. Their clothing was often decorated with seeds, shells, and paints. The Lenape were seasonal travelers and always returned to their homeland for the winter seasons. During the warmer weather they traveled to trade with the other bands in their region or with other Indian tribes in different territories as far away as the Carolinas and the Mississippi Valley (Grumet, 1989).
They mostly traveled on foot following animal trails or streambeds. The Lenape traveled by water when the streams and lakes were not frozen. On water they traveled by dugouts which were a primitive type of the canoe. These dugouts were made from large trunks of trees. The Lenape would start a fire at a base of a tree to fell the tree, start a fire in the center of the tree trunk to soften it, and then use their handmade tools to dig out the ash from the center until it was hollowed out enough to float. In 1955, an 18 foot long chestnut dugout believed to be from the Lenape Indians circa 600-1700’s washed up from Lake Wallenpaupack in northeastern Pennsylvania during the flooding that occurred during Hurricane Diane. It is now on display at the PP&L Education Center in the Pocono Mountains. The Lenape Indians appointed a village leader they called the sachem who helped make decisions for the group. This was always a male who was deemed wise and skilled who received advice from the other village elders. He was knowledgeable about their religion and led the group in their rituals and ceremonies. When the Europeans arrived and met the Indians, they called these leaders the Indian Chiefs.
This Chief was different from the war chiefs who were the tribe’s skilled hunters. Another leader in the Lenape village was the Medicine Man or Woman. This leader was knowledgeable in the various teas, herbs, and poultices that were used to heal the sick and wounded. In addition to the herbs, the Lenape searched the forest for wild fruits and berries. They cleared areas of the forests around their homes to be used for gardens. The main agricultural crops that they planted and harvested, known as the three sisters, were beans, squash, and corn or maize (Lenape Lifeways, Inc, 2002).
Their shelters were either smaller wigwams or teepees which held two to three families or the much larger longhouses which were up to 60 feet long and held up to 25 people. The men built these shelters from many rows of saplings they bent to meet in the center to form a domed roof and then covered them with overlaying pieces of bark from chestnut or elm trees. There were no windows in these shelters; only a door at each end of the longhouse which was covered with animal skins to keep the cold weather out.
Open fires were built inside the shelters for warmth and cooking; therefore openings were left in the domed roofs to allow the smoke to escape (Kraft, 2005). This is what the first Europeans were greeted with along the Delaware River valley when they arrived in the early 16th Century. The first outsider to see the Lenape Indians was the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in the early 1500’s when he entered the Hudson Bay. His writings told of what the Lenape Indians looked like and how gentile they were (Grumet, 1989).
The next group of Europeans to encounter the Lenape Indians was the Dutch settlers in early 1600’s. The Dutch traded furs with the Lenape for their more refined metal tools. As the trading expanded, the Europeans and the native Lenape soon engaged in hostilities. The Europeans were interested in the furs, mostly favored was the beaver fur, and the acquisition of the rich land that the Lenape inhabited (Lenape Lifeways, Inc, 2002). Other than trading, the Europeans introduced many diseases that the Lenape had no immunities to.
These diseases consisted of smallpox, measles, mumps, and scarlet fever and they proceeded to devastate the native’s population. Warfare and the introduction of alcohol from the colonists further contributed to the decline of the Lenape population. Where once there were over 24,000 Indians residing in Lenapehoking; after the arrival of the Europeans, the population dwindled to less than 3,000 by the beginning of the 1700’s (Grumet, 1989, p. 34). The Lenapes’ other prized possession was the beads they created from the shells littering the coastal shores of Lenapehoking.
The natives called these purple and white beads wampum and the Europeans used these as currency with the Indians (Grumet, 1989). As the Lenape depleted their crops and animals with their hunting and trading, they expanded their communities to the Ohio region in the 1600’s. Many of the Lenape Indians moved away from Lenapehoking across the Allegheny Mountains to the Susquehanna River valley to just distance themselves from the Europeans and because of the various land acquisitions and treaties that were signed.
This westward migration of the Lenapes caused conflicts with other Indian tribes and continued conflicts with the Dutch settlers led to ravaged Indian and European communities (Grumet, 1989). These treaties and early sales agreements were signed by the Lenapes for the sale of their lands. One such infamous treaty was the 1737 Walking Purchase. William Penn’s sons, Thomas and James, wishing to increase their income through land sales, found an old treaty from 1686 that was never used. This treaty would grant to the proprietors of Pennsylvania as much Lenape land north along the Delaware River as far as a man could walk in a day and a half.
In 1737, the Penn brothers convinced the then four Lenape Indian Chiefs to agree to hold to their end of this agreement that their forefathers had signed (Miller & Pencak, 2002). William Penn, a Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania, dealt fairly with the Indian natives, but his sons who took over after he returned to England began to accumulate more and more land and took advantage of the trust the Lenapes had formed toward the colonists when their father was there. Land was extremely important to the Lenape Indians, but the four Lenape Indian Chiefs thinking the treaty was a genuine treaty signed by heir ancestors, and figuring a man could only walk a short distance over that wilderness in a day and a half, agreed to honor the treaty. What ensued was that Penn’s heirs, hired the three fastest runners in the colony and had them run for the purchase on a well planned trail. The three runners started in what is today Wrightstown, New Jersey and the pace was so intense that only one of the runners actually made it as far as what is today known as Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. This distance was about 70 miles and allowed the Penns to acquire roughly 1,200,000 acres of land in what was Lenapehoking.
The area of land that was part of the Walking Purchase covers what is the size of the state of Rhode Island consisting of what is most of the present day counties of Pike, Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northampton, Lehigh, and Bucks. The four Lenape leaders felt that they had been swindled by the colonists but honored it because of the treaty they had signed (Walking Purchase, 2009). This forced the Lenape natives into the other areas of Lenapehoking causing over-crowding which also led to their migration further west.
Today most of the Lenape Indians reside in Oklahoma and Canada but some still reside in their ancestral lands in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Nora Thompson Dean was believed to be one of the last known full-blooded Lenape Indians along with her brother Edward Leonard Thompson. Her Indian name was Touching Leaves and she lived her adult years in Oklahoma. Touching Leaves died in 1984 and her brother died in 2002. They belonged to the southern territory of Lenapehoking and were one of the few who could still speak the Unami dialect of the Lenape Indians (Rem, 1984).
Today you can still find evidence of the life of the Lenape Indians through the artifacts discovered along the valleys and coasts of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. The archaeological sites in the Delaware Valley have yielded many artifacts such as spearheads, arrowheads, knives, and remains of clay cooking pots that tell us of the culture of the Lenape Indians. Many streets, towns, parks and waterways bear the Lenape names in the Delaware River regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Some of these are Manhattan, Hackensack, Allegheny, Catasauqua, Cocalico, Conshohocken, Catawissa, to name a few (Lenape Lifeways, Inc, 2002).
The Lenape tribe was considered to be one of the most advanced and civilized of all Indian tribes in Eastern United States. The Pocono Indian Museum in Bushkill, Pennsylvania is the home to many of these artifacts. Today there are Delaware Indian Reservations in Indian Territory in Oklahoma and two in Ontario, Canada. Only on these reservations does the government recognized the tribal governments. The Lenape elders continue to pass down their traditions and old ways to the newer generations. The Delaware Indians today continue to struggle to preserve their traditions and identities.
There are over 13,000 Delaware Indians registered today and recognized by the United States and Canadian governments and many thousands more claim Delaware ancestry. Very few are able to speak their ancestors language (Grumet, 1989). The children on the reservations attend classes rich in the teachings of the arts and traditions of the Lenape ways. References Grumet, R. S. (1989). The Lenapes. (F. W. Porter, III, Ed. ). New York and Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers. Kraft, H. C. (2005). The Lenape or Delaware Indians (8th ed. ). Stanhope, NJ: Lenape Lifeways, Inc.
Lenape Lifeways, Inc (2002). About The Lenapes. Retrieved November 29, 2009, from http://lenapelifeways. org/lenape1. htm Miller, R. M. , & Pencak, W. (Eds. ). (2002). Pennsylvania: A history of the Commonwealth. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Rem, J. (1984, December 1). Obit of Dean, Nora T. Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise. Retrieved November 29, 2009, from http://files. usgwarchives. org/ok/washington/obits/d5000085. txt Walking Purchase. (2009). Retrieved December 4, 2009, from : http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Walking_Purchase

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